Image source: U.S. Department of the Interior U.S. Geological Survey – after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, black and grey mold
When Hurricane Sandy came to the Rockaways, it wrecked a lot of people’s lives and property – people were displaced when their homes were damaged, some beyond recognition; the boardwalk was destroyed, a structure that provided pleasure for visitors and residents and income for businesses located on it; and fires raged in Belle Harbor and Breezy Point, burning everything to the ground (exception: the Madonna). Sandy’s destruction was obvious and it was easy – though heartbreaking – to see what was gone.
Myriad problems and challenges followed – how to get supplies into the area; how to get an inspector to come by and determine if one’s home needed to be demolished; and how to live day to day. But there are hidden dangers from the storm – we mentioned the tetanus risk earlier, but black mold is also a threat, and it’s a pretty nasty one.
Mold in general is such a potential danger that the CDC has page on it to serve as a resource for people after a natural disaster. So does the EPA. The summary regarding mold is essentially, “when in doubt take it out” if you even suspect it is there. Even if it pains you to do it for sentimental reasons attached to your home. Anything porous that has been wet for over 48 hours is likely home to mold.
Buildings that were flooded are all potential homes to mold. Black mold in particular isn’t the mold and mildew you find in your normal bathroom or basement – this is toxic stuff. Mold toxins are called mycotoxins, and some of the harmful species are called S. chartarum (also known as S. atra) and S. chlorohalonata. From the EPA:
Many symptoms and human health effects attributed to inhalation of mycotoxins have been reported including: mucous membrane irritation, skin rash, nausea, immune system suppression, acute or chronic liver damage, acute or chronic central nervous system damage, endocrine effects, and cancer. More studies are needed to get a clear picture of the health effects related to most mycotoxins. However, it is clearly prudent to avoid exposure to molds and mycotoxins.
Out in the Rockaways, inspectors have found mold in dozens of homes, and the solution many come to is to rip out and replace the affected materials, or simply demolish the whole structure if it’s inundated with black mold. The thing about mold, though, is that it lives through its spores, so if one doesn’t get rid of the mold first before they rip out the damaged materials, the spores can find their way out into the air and can travel.
A new term, the “Rockaway Cough,” has been coined in the wake of the devastation; it brings to mind the Katrina Cough, a respiratory illness that affected people in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, because of so much dust and mold in the air. Migraines often accompany it.
So how to people get rid of this mold? Hiring a professional mold inspector is the way to go. This page from Building Mold Inspection is chock full of resources. Wave3.com has put together some steps you can take to get the mold remediation process going:
1. If water has entered your house or building, get rid of the water at as soon as possible by the use of water pumps, mopping, drying equipment, dehumidifiers, and big fans that exhaust humid air to the outside through open windows. Avoid the use of electrically-powered items in wet areas to avoid electrocution.
2. If water has soaked ceilings or walls, cut drying holes in multiple areas in such water-soaked areas, e.g., cutting a hole into the bottom of each wall section of your drywall, between the vertical wall studs. Use fans to extract and exhaust moist air outward from the drying holes to speed up the drying process.
3. Use a hand-pumped garden sprayer or a small electric, hand-held sprayer, to spray either boric acid powder or EPA-registered fungicide Tim-Bor on all walls, ceilings, floors, furniture, and furnishings to prevent mold growth and/or to kill already-growing mold growth. Mix one pound of boric acid powder or Tim-Bor per gallon of hot water (hot to dissolve completely the mold prevention product)
4. Use a high output ozone generator (generating at least 14,000 ozone units per hour) four to eight hours in each room or area such as crawl space, basement, attic, garage, and inside heating and cooling equipment and ducts to kill both mold and bacteria infestations that result from Hurricane Sandy.
5. Use do it yourself mold test kit or the services of a Certified Mold Inspector or Certified Environmental Hygienist for in depth mold inspection and testing of your house or building one week after flooding or water intrusion problems.
Black mold is nothing to mess with, and prolonged exposure can result in lasting health problems. Be careful out there.
How To Inspect and Remove Hurricane Sandy Flood Water and Toxic Mold Damage to Homes, Commercial Buildings, and Public Buildings [Wave3.com]
How To Do Toxic Mold Inspection & Removal Blog for Hurricane Sandy & Other Water & Mold Damage Problems [buildingmoldinspection.com]
Mold A Growing Concern For Breezy Point Homeowners [NY1]